TALLAHASSEE – The Florida State men’s indoor track & field team boasts the nation’s best collection of 60-meter hurdlers and long jumpers in the nation this season. The leaders of those event groups, Trey Cunningham and Isaac Grimes, remained unbeaten with their weekend performances at the Texas Tech Invitational.
Cunningham established new Atlantic Coast Conference and Florida State 60-meter hurdles records when he sailed to victory in 7.52 Friday night, which also established a new Sports Performance Center facility record.
Grimes followed up Saturday with back-to-back personal-best leaps of 8.00 meters (26-3), narrowly missing a facility record of his own.
Cunningham and Grimes, who rank first and second in the NCAA, respectively, have been recognized as ACC Performers of the Week for the third time this season, as announced Wednesday by the conference office.
Capping the first, three-round competition of his career, Cunningham equaled the No. 8 time in NCAA history in the final, leading a 1-4 sweep by the Noles. In the process he broke his previous tie for the FSU and conference records, shared with former Seminole Drew Brunson. Caleb Parker, Braxton Canady and Tyricke Highman followed the junior from Winfield, Ala. over the final barrier in order. That trio ranks second, eighth and 15th nationally.
Grimes overcame a first-round leading jump by teammate Fabian Edoki to pace a 1-2-8 long jump finish by the Noles. Edoki, who finished second, ranks seventh nationally and eighth-place finisher Darius Clark ranks 18th.
“Those are our power groups right now,” FSU coach Bob Braman said. “They’re healthy. They’re getting lots of PBs from both the hurdles and the jumps. Having the Alpha dog, who is either the national leader or awfully close, that picks up the whole group.”
One of 10 men on The Bowerman Preseason Watch List, Cunningham lowered his NCAA-leading time in both the semifinals (7.57) and finals. Two of the four-fastest times in his career came at the meet in Lubbock, Texas, continuing a season which has already produced six of the 10 fastest times in his career through three meets.
Grimes, who ranks second nationally behind defending NCAA Indoor champion Rayvon Grey of LSU (8.09 meters/26-6.5), has held that spot through his first three competitions of the season. The 2019 NCAA Division II Indoor champion and junior transfer from Chadron State, has improved in each of his three meets and now owns sole possession of No. 4 on FSU’s all-time list.
“They’ve done it week-in and week-out,” Braman said of the honored duo. “The definition of an athlete is when they’re slightly off, nobody can tell. Nobody can tell. And during the year they’ve had miniscule better days and nobody can tell, because they’ve been so good all the time. That’s what you have to be.
“That’s been huge for us; having two Alpha dogs out there for us just killing it.”
The Noles are in the midst of a two-week training cycle and will return to action the weekend of Feb. 14-15 at the Tiger Paw and David Hemery Valentine Invitational meets at Clemson and Boston University, respectively.
FSU Men No. 1 For Program-Best Third Consecutive Poll
For the third time this season the Florida State men’s indoor track & field has been recognized the No. 1 team in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) National Ratings Index. It marks the first time the Noles have held the top spot three times in a season, and in succession, since the inception of the ratings index in 2008.
“We’re doing all we can,” Braman said. “We’re having a great season with our kids performing at their best. We’re going to have to get healthier if we’re going to have a shot [at an NCAA title]. It’s virtually impossible, just with the way they these polls are set up, to go wire-to-wire, unless you’re just the 800-pound gorilla in the room. We’re not.”
The Noles are closely pursued by LSU, Texas, USC and Texas A&M, who round out the top five, with Indiana, Florida, Georgia, Oregon and Iowa State comprising the second five.
“It’s very, very balanced,” Braman said of the rankings. “LSU could win. Texas could win. Florida could sneak in there potentially. They’re having a great indoor season. You have four or five [teams] that could get to a number [points at the NCAA meet] that may hold up, not unlike ’09 when we almost four-way tied at 36 [points]. Four teams were separated by two points; three of tied outdoors that year…
“We completely believe that the names are going to change, probably more than once. There will be two different leaders in the clubhouse, maybe three, in my opinion when we line up in Albuquerque.”
The ratings index assigns points based on the event rankings in each event, taking into account the marks from both the 2020 and 2019 seasons through the first four rankings releases of the season. Beginning with the Feb. 17 release, only 2020 season marks will count toward the team rankings.
Florida State has been without the services of sprint star Kasaun James, the NCAA Indoor runner-up in the 200-meter dash and 60-meter finalist, since suffering an injury after the opening meet. James’ marks from 2019 are factored into ratings index, but isn’t expected back in action until the ACC Championships Feb. 27-29). Sprinter Bryand Rincher, who was fifth in the 60-meter dash last season, is also accounted for in the rankings but is sitting out the indoor season.
Braman understands that, barring some new athletes adding NCAA qualifying marks to the equation, the Noles may lose their perch at the top spot in two weeks.
“There’s no way we’re going wire-to-wire because we’re going to have to get our guys healthy,” he said. “We’re a long way away from the end of it, believe it or not. We’re 5 ½ weeks from the NCAA.
“I’m fine with it. It’s good to be where we’re at. I presume we’re going to have to deal with being the underdog for two or three weeks, and that’s probably a better spot for us.”
The FSU women also slipped six spots to No. 18 this week, despite sprint standouts Ka’Tia Seymour and Jayla Kirkland adding NCAA Indoor Championships-worthy marks in the 200-meter dash at the Texas Tech Invitational. The duo already appear to be locks for the championship meet in the 60-meter dash.
“Similarly, our women aren’t going to show out until nationals,” Braman said. “They’re not going to have a lot of people, but they’re going to have super-elite people that are there and they’re going to be a top-10 kind of team, which will get better outdoors when they have more of those pieces in play.”